The Black experience in this country is more so a plethora of experiences shaped by common factors and historical events. Therefore delving into our stories as Black women is like embarking on an endless journey. With all that we have in common, there are so many things that make us unique as individuals; from our lifestyles, backgrounds, interests, families to spiritual views, etc.There is truly no box to put us all in.
This series has only served as a glimpse into the lives of just a few Black Muslim women out of the thousands in this country. There is no way to capture all of the different views and interesting stories in a three part series, yet hopefully, articles such as this will open the door for more dialogue and expression of what it means to be a Black Muslim woman in America. Finally, of all the opinions and feedback shared while conducting these interviews, overall there was a desire to clear up misconceptions regarding their lifestyles and what their religious identity means to them as Black women.
Amirah Al-Nisa, 22
Amirah is currently in school studying Biology.
“I think a lot of people see these stereotypes in the media of women being oppressed, and base their views around that. It does exist, but you also have to distinguish more between people’s [cultural practices] and what Islam really teaches. True Islam does not oppress women it uplifts women. People should try to educate themselves as much as possible.”
Khadijah Mahasin Baha Muhammad, 27
“The biggest misconception is that we cannot do anything but stay in the home, have babies, and be servants to our husband. That is not true … Also people think Muslim men have many wives, which is true in some sects, but as the Holy Quran states, a man can have up to four wives but one is best for him if he but knew.”
Khadijah was born and raised Muslim. She is a teacher and drug researcher. Contrary to what she says are popular misconceptions, Khadijah speaks highly of the role of Black women, not only in Islam but in general. She was always taught that woman are to be honored and respected, and that they play a very valuable role in society and family life.
Malikah X Saunders, 24
“I grew up in the South, in a family of Baptist preachers. So when I told everyone [I accepted Islam] , it was a very big struggle for me. My parents thought I was crazy, they said I was going to hell. My friends thought I was going to become some sort of doormat and marry someone with a bunch of wives. I felt uncomfortable covering my hair at first because of all the flack at home. It was a rough transition. ”
As Malikah spoke very emotionally about her journey, she says still struggles with scorn from her family and friends, yet finds strength through her Faith. She believes she was called to this path for a reason and would like to show those close to her that Islam is truly about “peace, learning who you are, respecting yourself as a woman, and becoming closer to God.”
Heather X, 24
Heather works as a college advisor, and she has also faced many challenges at work and at home in her recent transition from Christianity to Islam.
“The biggest misconception about Muslim women is that they have no place in making decisions for themselves and that they have no input concerning their education, finances, and their role as women in society … It’s important for society to see who Black women in Islam really are. We are still women and go through similar things that all women go through. We have similar struggles as women do [all over the world]. We are mothers, career women, scientist, you name it. We have interesting lifestyles, if society tries to gain actual knowledge and understanding … it will help alleviate stereotypes placed on us.”
Jameelah Muhammad, 28
“What is unique about being an African-American Muslim woman is our history of overcoming obstacles. We fought hard for what we believe in before it was so accepted or common to be Muslim; to dress this way; to have a Muslim names. That is something my parents passed on to me. To be proud of who I am as a Black woman, and as a Muslim woman.”
Jameelah owns a boutique where she sells jewelry and accessories. She is married and has two sons. She says her husband respects and supports her as they work together to raise their sons. A business woman, she states she is a mother and wife first and that Islam is her foundation. Jameelah believes there is a great need for more perspectives from Black women in Islam.
“It is like almost an anomaly to some people to be Black and Muslim. People don’t recognize the impact Islam has had on the African-American community. There is so much history there. I can only imagine the struggle Black women who accepted Islam years ago had. I think the more we tell these stories, the more it will be evident it will be … It’s true we really need more diversity in Black entertainment and literature–everything really. Our voices need to be out there.”